Developing Short Distance Speed

I posted something like this before, but it got lost somewhere.

If you are an athlete who works mostly in very short distances (eg. soccer players, rugby players, football players), how do you vary the speed work done to prevent a plateau?

For example:

1st Mesocycle: 2x10x10m (total=200m per session)
2nd Mesocycle: 2x6x20m (total=240m per session)
3nd Mesocycle: 2x5x30m (total=300m per session)
4th Mesocycle: 2x4x40m (total=320m per session)

And then repeat this from the start. Is this enough variation to continue improving speed?

Going off on a bit of a tangent.
But in training speed for these sports do you feel there is a need for max speed and top end acceleration.
As a outside back I find that a lot of my max. demands during a game are in accelerating from 3/4 pace to max.

taka, you need an all round speed approach in my opinion, for eg, in rugby we use more 1/2 to full speed, with a good mix of 0 to full speed etc, should be prepared for everything in a game!

I would agree lebeau, and also point out that one of the keys to speed and accelleration is never to be at 0!!!

What I mean is that if some movement during the game can be maintained throughout most of the playing time the accelereation can be faster, or the starting speed is faster.

I would argue that a player of any team sport should never stand still during the duration of the game … always moving - if only jogging.

Even if this movement is a backwards movement.
I think this point is very relevant in some sports such as soccer.

The key question arising from this therefore is … how is time split up during the week, if you have a max of 3 speed sessions, to address each of these and maintain variety also to tie back in with the orginal question.

To try and address David question more directly however …

If I understand the question correctly in my case the variety also occurs microcycle to microcycle.

Agility is also considered as a speed session, so the issue of a plateau is rarely considered as described.

I don’t necessarily think this is correct, but in prcatice, I don’t think team sports consider/address plateaus in speed.

Perhaps Lebeau, It might not suit Rugby as other sports, but I do think it could be encouraged for some positions in Rugby, perhaps the backs etc.- because I would regard the split second improvements as very valuable in team sports.

How many players simlply remain flat footed when not involved and then have to move from a flat foot to toes to acceleration?
I encourage my teams never to stop, always on their toes and I also use skipping or Jumping Rope to develop this constant movement and ‘balls of the feet’ postion.

You have three team players of equal ability and training standing at a line waiting to react to a signal and catch a ball dopping 30m away from them:

A. Tom is standing flat-footed not moving
B. Jerry is on the balls of his feet moving fowards
C. Harry is on the balls of his feet moving backwards

Who catches their ball first, second and third?

Re: Fartlek
Previously my ideas were very favourable towards Fartlek - I considered it brilliant for the developing the same game type situations as encountered by the team athlete, however I noticed that, while it developed and improved recovery, there was less and less to recover from!!!

  • I had no speed.

Too much medium intensity Fartlek developed my ST fibres too much, I couldn’t accelerate fast enough or get MV. This is why I like tempo, you are at min 65% and mimicking game runs at a lower intensity and recovering.

I am not certain but I feel the basic optimal weekly schedule might be something similar to that posted above for Close and Pre session.

I do feel there should be one continous-type session each week - wait, what I mean is something like Fartlek or maybe a 20-30 min slow continuous run once every week or second week - but I could also make a good argument against any continuous running for team sports …


no23, unfort with rugby its a very stop start affair at the lower levels (and after the NZ - England game on sat, also right at the top) So not working on your momentum from a dead start would leave you dead in a game!


I posted a question relating to this on another topic, i`ll copy & paste it here, it has some significance to your question:
Going To 11 Topic:

Rugby / Football players do alot of 40yard dashes etc during training, am i right in saying this maintains current MV, but diminishes SE? Would incorporating max 150`s once a week counter-act all the short distance sprinting?

Sprinting seems that the one with the highest top speed wins, yet rugby / football require more acceleration based players, so would you see a big difference increasing SE? I`m sure increasing your MV AND your acceleration to it, would greatly improve the quality of your game. Would 60m sprinting help with higher MV & Acceleration to it? 80m?

Any remarks no23?


True, Rugby is more stop-start, and I do think starting speed is critical (I don’t suggest it be ignored or that one should not work on your momentum from a dead start) but perhaps the idea (of constant movement) is more applicable to soccer, footy etc.

I agree, with the 150m target for SE, I can’t see the benefit in going beyond that, I’d even suggest 100m as the max distance for most sports, but 150 is good imo.

Acceleration is certainly the key factor in sports speed.

In most sports I would consider the 30m distance as the key distance.
I believe (I must do a proper study sometime!!) that 30m is the distance most team players sprint over (… and 80m the least).

I feel a pryamid sprint approach best reflects the games distribution of sprints.

Is it too simplistic to base a speed program on such a basis?

My suggested weekly approach for speed would be as follows. …

Intensity increasing as week progresses and volume decreasing.

M - Speed (Emphasis on 30 - 100m, e.g. 3 x 30, 3 x 50, 2 x 70, 1 x 100, and maybe some with flying starts)
T - Tempo
W - Agility
T - Tempo
F - Speed (Emphasis on 10 - 30m, e.g. 5 x 10, 4 x 20, 3 x 30)
S -

lebeau/ David?

no23, your on to a great idea about the constant movement, as its easier to get to full or half sprint while your momentum is > 0

Ill take tonight go through some of the research i have, but 30m is what we do at training, which is ideal it seems, but ill have to check.

I always remember someone saying… KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid. But could you post a quite & dirty Sprint Pyramid Scheme. also would love to see your thoughts on Agility & Tempo workouts on a rugby/soccer field!

Why are such long distances being used? Can training at the longer distances (eg. 60m) have a positive effect on your speed to shorter distances (eg. 30m)?

To work on speed from a moving start, why not just do half of your 30m reps with a rolling or flying start.
eg. 5x30m standing, 5x30m with 10m buildup.

Late in the macrocycle in terms of special endurance, would it not be better to work on this in terms of intervals so that it is more specific to rugby. (eg. 10x30m with <30sec rest) rather than long reps (eg. 150m or 300m). Is this not the best way to attain what coaches call ‘match fitness’? (from experience, tempo is not enough to prepare you fitness-wise for rugby even with very short rests)

Good points David,

I guess you’re looking at it from a completely Rugby view, I was also including Soccer and Footy, so yes shorter distances probably make more sense, except maybe for backs, where the 30+ distances may be of help.

I feel the majority of the work should be around the 30m mark - and these can by from standing of flying starts, but this depends on whether you want to mimic acceleeration from standing starts at the base of a ruck maybe to the a back collecting the ball at speed.

Basically it’s down to what you want to focus on or improve …

“Late in the macrocycle in terms of special endurance, would it not be better to work on this in terms of intervals so that it is more specific to rugby. (eg. 10x30m with <30sec rest) rather than long reps (eg. 150m or 300m). Is this not the best way to attain what coaches call ‘match fitness’? (from experience, tempo is not enough to prepare you fitness-wise for rugby even with very short rests)”

I guess it depend on a number of factors, For team sports during most of the year you have possibly 3 days a week where you can stress the CNS and develop speed, speed endurance, agility strength and power etc. - the other days are used primarilay for recovery, but also to maintain and develop aerobic fitness using techniques such as tempo.
As I said earlier, other methods could be used such as low intensity fartlek.

For the endurance needed for team sports, one of the 3 CNS days can be used to develop it, I would use distances of between 20 - 80m (100m max). Like you point out it is more appicable to the sport, however as you point out many coaches use 300’s, and 200’s to develop this fitness level.
These distances can be used, but early in the phase or perhaps for variety, Personally I think since they are not similar to anything performed in a game they are to be used sparingly.
But I would say I find tempo very useful for team games especailly for the recovery benefits and aerobic fitness help-

I`d love to hear Gil’s thoughts on the matter?